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Broken Jesus

The last time we volunteered at the Good Shepherd it was during the hot meal service. Before heading down to the kitchen a group of volunteers met in the chapel.  While we were there I was drawn to an image of the crucified Christ. As if I knew there was something more to this particular image.

This image of the crucified Christ had a story. The story is written on a plaque next to it which reads:

Missing an arm and leg, the corpus is what remains of the dedication crucifix of 1972. Originally located in the main dining room of this Centre, it has suffered the indignity of having been stolen twice, dumped in an alleyway, and recovered in a Hamilton pawn shop. It had been hocked for $5.00. Destroyed in 1991 by a mentally disturbed overnight guest, “Broken Jesus” now serves as the “Shepherd Cross” in the chapel – symbolizing that “brokenness” need not be the end. – Reordering of Chapel, 1997, Justin Howson, BGS

This image was imprinted on my mind and heart as we served the guests that afternoon. The guests who came for a free meal were from all walks of life. From elderly men and women, to the middle aged, young adults, youth and even a young mom with small children. Some of their struggles seemed physically apparent, others not so much. They all faced some sort of brokenness, whether it was a loss of a job, recovering from abuse, or a battle with addiction or mental health issues. Those of us who were serving them, were also dealing with our own form of brokenness. Yet, that afternoon, we put aside our needs, to serve those whose physical need was greater than our own. When I looked out into the dining room that afternoon, I saw “Broken Jesus” among them.

Jesus is God, who lowered himself, to take on human flesh. By this act alone He elevates our dignity. Yet, for him this is not enough. He must also suffer in the most inhumane, undignified manner, in order to show us his love. He wants to be where we are. In a broken world, in the middle of the battle field, broken, bruised and battered with us.

This image of the “Broken Jesus” presented for me quite the contrast from the image we focus on during our feast day of Christ the King. We venerate Christ as King, rightfully so we imagine him with royal colored robes, golden crown with jewels and velvet throne. However, Jesus wants to rule our hearts from the throne of the cross, while adorning a crown of thorns, and the nails on his hands and feet. Those who sculpt the images add a cloth to give Christ some dignity, but we know that during the crucifixion Jesus was stripped, not even a loin cloth to cover himself. He hung naked on that cross. There was no dignity in the crucifixion.

This is how he gives us hope. He shows us that suffering, and brokenness do not have the last word, he has the last word. His last word is that he has prepared a place for us with him in eternity. Through our repentance, he can shower us with mercy, through our humility, he can restore dignity, through our suffering, he can save us and the whole world. “Broken Jesus” wants to be among us because only he can heal our brokenness.

Daniela DallaVia is organizing a group to assist at the Good Shepherd Venture Centre in Hamilton on October 14th, 2016. If you would like more information, please contact her directly at

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